A view from the Costas - our man in Spain, Autumn 2013

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A view from the Costas - our man in Spain, Autumn 2013

If ever there is a good reason to own property in Spain then it is the ability to enjoy life out of the summer holiday season. It is then that Spain really comes into its own!

That is not to say that I do not like the summer here. How could anyone not? Certainly, after ten years of living in Gandia, southern Spain, I still thrill to the buzz of everyone being on holiday and the guaranteed four months or more of stunning weather. The beaches are terrific, the sea balmy and the towns and villages, by August suffused by a sense of sleepy well-being.

Lazy breakfasts and long al fresco lunches are the order of the day and are complemented by the delight of dining outside with friends, long into a starlit night. All of this is enough to enchant any normal North European and persuade them that having a home in Spain is worthwhile.

However, it is as we move into autumn that I feel must fortunate. In the UK, I always felt a sense of despair as the weeks passed and the nights closed in. It felt as though I was descending into a long period of gloom, before I had any chance of revelling in the life-enhancing vibrancy of sunshine that lights up both the countryside and the people.

Of course, life in Spain is defined, to some extent by the climate, with one of the starkest differences being that winter days, within Mediterranean Spain, can be truly warm. Indeed, unlike the UK, a blue sky invariably heralds a warm day, regardless of the time of year.

Actually, one of my fondest memories is of having our Christmas lunch, on our first year here, on the terrace of our villa. Dressed in only chinos and a shirt, I carved the chicken (a turkey being unavailable), whilst looking across at the dramatic mountains that surround my home. These were bathed in brilliant sunshine, as they had been for the previous week, and drove my wife and I to muse on how inspired had been our move here.

In fact, our move transformed our lives and those of our children, not least because we go out more than we ever did in the UK. It is still ridiculously cheap to dine out here, with an accompanying tolerance by the Spanish to children that is delightful.

Throughout the year, we go for long walks and outside sports, such as horse riding, cycling or climbing, are no longer about endurance (no driving rain and wind).

It would be absurd to say that anyone should be driven to buy a property in Spain purely because the climate is better. However, it undeniably makes a difference to one's general sense of well-being.

This, of course, is complemented by a society (unlike the UK) that remains nuclear and based around the local community.

Be a part of this and you will find living in Spain is like stepping back into a time when the UK had similar qualities - those of gentleness, kindness and toleration. It is these things that make day-to-day life a pleasure for us and for most of the expatriates we know.

But what about the crisis, I hear you say and the crash in property prices? Well, undeniably there is a devastatingly tough economic crisis here. That is no secret.

However, one of humanity's greatest qualities is its adaptability and already Spain is adapting to its problems, although doing some odd things that I have become used to.

For example, the Catalan and Valencian governments have just increased purchase tax for re-sale properties from 8 per cent (I think high, in any event) to - roll of drums - (an incredible) 10 per cent!

Sometimes the Spanish have the economic acumen of lunatics, who have found broken into the asylum's drug store...

That said, I am sure that Spain will survive to see better days and surprise everyone with its resilience.

In any event, however selfish it may seem, if you come over here and have a secure income then Spain's problems will be largely irrelevant to you. The key is not to come here needing to earn money or if you have a perilous financial situation.

With property prices now at levels last seen around the year 2000, there are some fantastic bargains around with an almost unlimited choice of fine housing whether flats, beach apartments, town houses, villas or apartments.

In the meantime, I will be thinking of you as winter advances!

Nick Snelling left the UK a decade ago to pursue a new life in Valencia with his family. A commentator on life in Spain (Twitter@culture_spain), Nick has authored several books including How to buy Spanish property and move to Spain...safely, How to sell your Spanish property in a crisis, Laptop entrepeneur: How to make a living anywhere in the world and Taking the Heat: an expat under pressure in Spain. All these titles are available to buy from amazon by clicking on the title.


A Place In The Sun